Skip to main content

Profile: Amanda Knox co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito

By Laura Smith-Spark. Richard Allen Greene and Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN
January 30, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Raffaele Sollecito arrives at court in Florence for the final verdict of his retrial on January 30, 2014.
Raffaele Sollecito arrives at court in Florence for the final verdict of his retrial on January 30, 2014.
  • Sollecito and Amanda Knox were convicted of murder in Meredith Kercher's 2007 death
  • In 2011, they were acquitted but that decision was overturned and a retrial began in 2013
  • Sollecito wrote a memoir, "Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox"
  • He has described his experience as "a nightmare that goes beyond imagination"

Rome (CNN) -- Raffaele Sollecito was a 23-year-old computer science student when his girlfriend's roommate, Meredith Kercher, was found dead in the house she shared with Amanda Knox in Perugia, Italy, in 2007.

The discovery was the beginning of what Sollecito has called "a nightmare" he wouldn't wish on anyone.

In 2009, he and Knox were convicted of Kercher's murder. In 2011, the pair were acquitted -- only to have that decision overturned by Italian Supreme Court judges two years later. A retrial began in Florence in September 2013.

The initial guilty verdict at the 2009 trial had not been the result Sollecito had been expecting.

"When the sentencing was read, I didn't understand what was happening and even now it seems impossible and still I don't understand why I was convicted," he said in a prison interview through his lawyer the week after the sentencing. He said then he dreamed of returning to his studies.

Amanda Knox watches retrial from home
Legal Analyst: She could be reconvicted
Legal Analyst: She could be reconvicted
Amanda Knox's ex takes stand in retrial

Sollecito is from Bari, on the Adriatic coast, far south of the central Italian university town where he was studying. In his prison interview, he said he missed the smell of the sea, among other things.

"Above all my family," he said in the interview conducted via attorney Luca Maori. "I also miss my friends, the everyday life, the walks in my town's square."

Sollecito finished his computer science degree while in prison, according to media reports. He was not studying at the same university as Knox, and was not held in the same prison.

In the prison interview, he described how the verdict brought the world collapsing down on him and Knox.

But he denied then that he was still in love with her, saying, "I feel close to her because I consider her my companion in misadventure."

He rejected the idea that Knox was capable of murder. "I don't even dare think a thing like that. It is absurd and inadmissible. She is a very sweet girl," he insisted.

When their successful appeal saw Knox and Sollecito freed in 2011 -- after four years in prison -- they set about trying to rebuild their lives, a continent apart.

Sollecito had hoped simply to blend in in his hometown of Bari.

"I only hope to be forgotten; the sooner the better. I want to have a normal life," he said before his release. "I don't want to be recognized when I leave the prison."

'Journey to hell'

Sollecito published a book in 2012, the first by someone directly involved in the chain of events sparked by the discovery of Kercher's body.

The memoir, "Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox," draws heavily on diaries he kept and letters he wrote to friends, family and his hometown newspaper during his years in prison, the preface says.

Sollecito chronicles the day of the murder, admitting that he and Knox smoked marijuana that afternoon, which he says he regretted because it clouded his memory of what happened. While maintaining his innocence, he says he does not clearly remember even if Knox spent the night with him.

Amanda Knox's acquittal overturned
Why Knox's boyfriend didn't turn on her
Knox's ex: We're like brother, sister
Knox trial explained

He and Knox made mistakes the morning of the discovery, including trusting police investigators, he writes.

Sollecito acknowledges that at times, he was uncomfortable with Knox's "bizarre behavior," which he says prosecutors used against both of them.

In the epilogue, he recounts how he went to visit Knox in Seattle after their release, but he was nervous to see her. "I wasn't at all sure it was a good idea and I continued to waver back and forth even after I booked my ticket.

"We had been through so much; perhaps we owed it to each other to live our lives and leave each other in peace."

Rather than that hoped-for peace, Sollecito's nightmare began again following the 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court judges in Rome that there should be a retrial.

In an interview with CNN soon after the retrial opened in September 2013, Sollecito maintained his innocence.

"I just think that in the Italian system, there's something really wrong in the rules that they sometimes are not respected or they are turned to hurt people. And they can hurt actually innocent people," he said. "My life now is a hell."

Sollecito took the stand to defend himself in November.

"I would like to make you understand that these charges against me are absurd," he told the court.

"There was not a basis to charge me, to put me in jail ... I don't wish anybody on Earth to go through what I went through."

He said that evidence against him -- a knife that was a key part of the prosecution's case -- was "an illusion."

"I ask you ... to really look at reality," he implored the judges. "For me, it's a nightmare that goes beyond imagination ...

"Right now, I don't have a real life."

Read more: Family keeps Kercher's memory alive

Read more: Six things to know about retrial

Read more: Meredith Kercher murder case timeline

Read more: Who is Amanda Knox?

CNN's Barbie Natza Ladeau reported from Rome. CNN's Laura Smith-Spark and Richard Allen Greene reported and wrote from London. CNN's Hada Messia also contributed to this report, from Rome.

Part of complete coverage on
The Knox/Sollecito retrial
January 31, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
Student Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are waiting -- once again -- for a verdict from an Italian court.
November 6, 2013 -- Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)
Amanda Knox's former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito took the stand in an Italian court, defending himself.
November 2, 2013 -- Updated 2158 GMT (0558 HKT)
CNN's Fredricka Whitfield talks with Steve Moore about discrepancies he found in the Amanda Knox case.
October 2, 2013 -- Updated 1609 GMT (0009 HKT)
Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were not in the Florentine appellate court Monday for the opening day of their appeal.
October 3, 2013 -- Updated 0229 GMT (1029 HKT)
Amanda Knox's former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito talks about his life now and the new Meredith Kercher murder trial.
March 28, 2013 -- Updated 1436 GMT (2236 HKT)
How come Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are back to square one in the Meredith Kercher murder trial?
March 26, 2013 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
amanda knox file
CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin weighs in on an Italian court's decision to retry Amanda Knox for murder.
January 30, 2014 -- Updated 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)
Since her release from an Italian prison, Amanda Knox has been trying to stay out of the public eye back in her hometown, Seattle.
January 29, 2014 -- Updated 1756 GMT (0156 HKT)
British student Meredith Kercher was found dead in November 2007. Six years on, two defendants are told they face a retrial.
January 31, 2014 -- Updated 0556 GMT (1356 HKT)
A look back at the key players in the trial of Amanda Knox.
January 30, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Raffaele Sollecito, right, attends his appeal hearing
Raffaele Sollecito says the discovery of Meredith Kercher's body was the start of a nightmare. Now he wants a normal life back, he says.